Since 1964, this album by the definitive Irish folk-music group has existed as a bowdlerized, 39-minute single disc. But the Clancys and Makem deliberately sequenced their shows for maximum dramatic effect, right down to the 16 hilarious 'tween-song segments that this two-disc version titles "Dialogue." So having this St. Patrick's Day performance in its unedited, robust, audience-interacting glory is a long-overdue treat-indeed, perhaps too long: Of the four group members, only Liam Clancy, whose bittersweet liner notes might break your heart, has lived to see it.
The subtitle, "12 Songs for Music Lovers," is off by one number: The experimental version of the Miracles' "Ooo Baby Baby" that takes up eight of this album's 56 minutes is unlikely to be loved by anyone. The rest, however, exemplify Faithfull's unique ability to transform a room into a post-punk Moulin Rouge. No one else finds songs old (Dolly Parton, Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, Randy Newman) or new (Neko Case, the Decembrists) better suited to her voice. And no one else has a voice like Faithfull's.
Some performers are too insecure to own up to their most obvious influences, but the ex-Maverick Raul Malo has always seemed willing to embrace his inner Roy Orbison, and on this album's "Something Tells Me" and "Crying for You" it comes all the way out. His inner Elvis Presley is pretty impressive too: The infectious "Moonlight Kiss" could almost body-double as a bonus cut on one of the King's better movie soundtracks. As himself, Malo is less than consistent, but "Hello Again" speaks well of his potential.
The London fog one hears in Orton's voice gives the ear more to work with than the Nova Scotia sunshine in Sarah MacLachlan's, but in the end Orton's sentimentality is just as unrewarding to the brain. Where this 13th-anniversary reissue comes to life is Disc Two. Comprising Orton's 1997 Best Bit EP and eight other previously uncollected B-sides and covers of the period, its patchwork nature makes for pleasant surprises. Best bit: her use of Tony! Toni! Toné's "If I Had No Loot" riff in "Best Bit."
As a global statesman, Bono often comes across like Al Gore in leather. But the stronger portions of U2's latest album, No Line on the Horizon (Universal-Island), suggest that such extracurricular grandstanding may have the salutary side effect of letting him get his pomposity out of his system, the easier to make like a rock star behind the recording-studio mic.
Unfortunately, the absence of overblown sentiments does not guarantee the presence of intelligible ones. Many of Bono's latest lyrics read like randomly juxtaposed lines from songs he never finished, and, set as they are to equally desultory music, they don't sing that much better. Perhaps he simply has nothing new to say. (He certainly emits more wordless Tarzan yells than he has in some time.) And perhaps it's just as well. "I'll go crazy if I don't go crazy tonight" is a clever refrain, but Waylon Jennings' "I've always been crazy, but it keeps me from going insane" is better.